Mr Noors Excellent Camel Market Excursion

Mr Noors excellent camel market adventure came about because Kiri and I did not want to be sitting about twidding our thumbs and were wondering what there was in Riyadh for two ladies to do other than shop.

While in Dubai, sightseeing with Kiri prior to escorting her to Riyadh, we came across a little cafe in the Dubai Mall that offered chocolates and coffee made with camel milk.  I’d like to say we thought this sounded so interesting we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a go.  But, actually, we had been on our feet all day and needed to sit down to wait for the bus back to the hotel, so what attracted us was the comfortable and empty seats.  The waitress told us about the camel milk when she came to take our orders.  We were too exhausted to really take in what she said otherwise I’m sure we’d have been very attentive.

She brought us our coffee and chocolates – we weren’t to tired to try what was on offer….  We left with their pamphlet listing the benefits of camel milk.

According to the pamphlet camel milk is:
  • easy to digest
  • low in fat – approx 50% lower than cows milk fat content.
  • high in calcium
  • high vitamin C
  • natural tasting
  • full of natural occuring anti-aging properties and
  • contains lanolin for soothing the skin

There are apparently no known allergies to camels milk which has the closest composition to human milk than, I’m presuming, any other animal milk.  And, says the pamplet, bedouins traditionally used camel fat and milk to protect themselves from the sun.  All this information came back to me on the day of our camel excursion – because I re-read the pamphlet.

Sitting in the back of the taxi contemplating our options, which were not looking good, we asked Mr Noor what he thought we should do.  He suggested a trip to the camel market.

‘Sure’, we said.
‘Why not?’

Our drive took us outside the city, which was great for Kiri because it was her first trip out into the desert.  It still amazes me that there is miles and miles of brown, dry, barrenness as far as the eye can see.  What amazes me even more is that people live out here.

Hundreds of pens make up the camel market sitting at the edge of the city and the smell of camel is rich in the air.  I asked Noor how much for a camel – he thought from about 3000SAR and up.  A lot of money for something you’re gonna eat, which is, I believe, what they generally do with camels these days.  One of my missions while I’m here is to eat camel meat.  When it happens I’ll let you know how it is.
(Authors note:  it’s quite delish).

We were looking at a couple of camels, avoiding the camel dung piled up outside the pen, when a man atop a long legged desert animal sauntered on by.  Perfect.  Time for a camel ride.  Mr Noor negotiated a price and the Camel Man sat said camel down.  Camel was not happy.  He kicked up a bit of a stink.  ‘Arrrggghhhh, Arrrggghhh’.

If we’d been on the ball we’d have taken a photo of Angry Camel in full tantrum, but we were too busy walking backwards, fast.  Once on the ground, the Camel Man climbed off the camel and got tangled up in the camels legs, because this ship of the desert was having one major hissy fit, kicking and balihooing away.  I think Camel Man was lucky he didn’t trip over and get a right kick in the butt.

We asked Mr Noor -‘What’s up with this camel’ because we were fast reconsidering riding this beast.  He asked Camel Man, having disentangled himself from his camel, who explained that the camel was objecting to being made to sit on the hot sand.  Camel Man invited us to sit on Angry Camel.  Yeah right!  I decided to send Kiri over first.  She was understandably hesitant, but with a bit of coaxing, and the promise that Camel Man would not stand the camel up, we got a photo of her seated on the camel.

Kiri on Angry Camel….who looks like he is smiling.

Camel Man then invited me onto the camel.  As Kiri had survived I was feeling brave so, after ascertaining that Camel Man would hang on to his camel, I said OK.

He will hold this camel won’t he Mr Noor cos angry camel has stopped smiling!

Camel Man then asked, with sign language, if I wanted the camel to stand up.  ‘Sure’, I nodded.  I’m glad I found a piece of rope to hang onto prior to the camel standing up, cos camels do not stand up in one smooth fluid motion.  Nope, the back legs push up first and I was facing the ground for a considerable amount of time till the front legs got us upright.  OK, so maybe it wasn’t that long, but it felt considerable.

Once up Camel Man led the camel a little distance for a walk and it crossed my mind that, for me to get off, this camel had to sit back down.  Given it’s performance a few minutes ago I was just a weeny bit concerned, but camel, thankfully, behaved itself.

There wasn’t much else to see at the camel market, so Mr Noor asked if we’d like to drink some camel milk.  ‘Of course’, we said, so off we went.

I was thinking camel milk cafe.  I was wrong.
To get camel milk, you have to milk a camel.

There are men with lactating camels and their baby’s in makeshift pens along the roadside a few kilometers from the camel market.  Mr Noor negotiated a price for a bowl of milk and then we were invited to go help milk the camel.

Camels. (Them in the background, not us in the foreground!)

Our recent experience with Angry Camel made us extremely cautious about approaching Mother Camel, especially as we had to come up from behind. I was wondering just how high up my body a camel would kick.  I decided too high for comfort so we got the Camel Milk-Man to milk the camel and, by the time I got the courage to get close enough to Mother Camel for the hands on experience, the bowl was full.  But really it’s exactly the same as milking a cow, except you’re standing up.

The following photo’s tell our camel milk story.

Camel Milk-Man cleans the bowls.  It was a really hot day and these guys are sitting by the road side waiting for customers.

The camel to be milked.  Saudi camels are the one hump variety.  This one looks harmless, but we decide to leave milking to the experts….

Milking the camel

Here it is….frothy and very warm

Mr Noor, posing with our milk and Mother Camel in the background.

Kiri….taking a sip.

Is that an Mmmmm….nice look or Mmmmm…not so nice. I love how Noor is laughing in the background.

Me…mmmmm. Nice.

What does camel milk taste like?  It tastes just like milk.  Funny that.  It is slight lighter than cows milk – not so fatty.  And this stuff was also freshly warm.

Mr Noor, after encouraging us to drink up, then said that lots of people get a stomach ache after their first camel milk drinking experience, but subsequent drinks are no problem – thanks Noor.  (We must have Maori stomachs because we’ve had no problems)

Kiri and Camel Milking-Man

Left over milk gets put into a plastic bag to be taken home.  We gave the bag to Mr Noor because he has a household of 15 that would appreciate a spot of milk.  He stashed on the passenger side floor of his taxi.  I was wondering, watching him place it so there would be no leaks, just how long camel milk lasts in a plastic bag before the bacterial population explodes.  Hmmm, this could explain the stomach ache theory.

I’ve spoken to people since this little tiki tour, including Saudis, and they seem surprised that we did such a thing.   Shocked, even.  They also have mixed views regarding camel milk – some like it, some certainly do not.  Given that the Arab of old was raised on camel milk this was a surprising but futher discussion revealed the attitude in based on the fact that the modern city Arab considers him (or her) self a class or two above a bedu arab.  It made me think that either local Saudi have forgotten where they came from or that perhaps modernization has made them just a teensy bit hoighty.

Glenn has read recently that camel milk will begin to be sold in supermarkets.  I wonder how successful that will be?  Regardless, I’m glad we got the au-natural experience.  We suggested that Mr Noor should advertise half day Excellent Camel Excursions because we had a really good time at the camel market and drinking camel milk.  If you’d like his number, drop me a line.


Ka Kite,

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